Friday, December 11, 2009

FOTO FRIDAY and Christmas Memories 3

Did you ever have a Christmas that nearly wasn't? I am not talking about sad disasters where the house and contents burned; or poverty or illness left no consideration for Christmas activities.

13. Since Mother mail-ordered most of my parents' Christmas expenditures, she really sweated some slow shipping merchandise. You could tell she was "sweatin' it" as Christmas Day drew near, because she periodically swung by our front door and anxiously watched for the mail truck .

Deliveries were later as the mail capacity increased. Believe it or not, there was a period of time of 2x daily deliveries. As I remember, only once did she have to wrap up a picture for a present.

Remember, there was no Internet in those days, but there was Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and ad infinitum mail order catalogs. There was no UPS or Fed-Ex tracking, as there was no UPS of Fed-Ex! Air mail shipping was not in the budget.

14. Dad worked a manager for a small lumber and hardware chain in Texas well over 30 years. Although salary was modest and benefits nil (unions are not prominent in Texas), managerial personnel received excellent bonuses, particularly if their location was perceived as a "jeweled crown" in the chain. Dad's store was a jeweled crown. His bonuses were lucrative for those days.

Persons receiving monetary bonuses in the 40's and early 50s expected and planned Christmas and otherwise unaffordable spending on receipt for such bonuses, the only unknown being the amount. This practice is humorously the focus of National Lampoon's A Griswold Family Christmas. I'm sure most of us have seen this movie with nostalgia. However, there was a Wal-Mart in the movie. There was no WalMart in the time-frame of Dad's bonuses.

The lumber/hardware chain was family owned. As time passed younger siblings assumed positions of authority in the hierarchy of the chain. One year with no notice, the chain discontinued monetary bonuses and gave out some token gift like fruitcakes.

It was a cause of grave concern at our house as most of Christmas was already purchased. Unknown to us siblings was the other obligations a couple must meet, Christmas or not: mortgages, taxes, daily living expenses. There was much consternation between my parents, even a few tears by Mother who felt Dad had been shortchanged for all his hard work. He worked 200% for the chain, often going back to work after eating supper. It was unfair.

Since I was older, Mother told me about it in explaining it in simple terms. We had Christmas; it probably was not as extravagant and there was no big family purchase as in previous years. I doubt my younger siblings noticed any difference. And the importance of bonuses did not sink in my young mind. By the time I entered the workforce, bonuses were nil and void, or mere tokens of what used to be.

15. My husband's sister told me the story of a Christmas long ago. My father-in-law apparently loved his liquor, sometimes at the expense of his family. When I met him this no longer was the case. The family worked in the tobacco fields, and payday was weekends.

Those days were the days of layaway everywhere and anywhere. Any mercantile business had a layaway plan, some with a carrying charge, some free.

One Christmas, FIL cashed his paycheck, bought his favorite beverage and forgot to swing by and pay off the layaway in time for Christmas. Of course there was some explanation to the siblings and the gifts were quickly paid off, but it was not Christmas.

When I married, FIL was one of my favorite in-laws; he could spin a tale like all us Texans, using hyperbole and exaggeration as all Texans do. I loved him. He spent several weeks with us, after my mother-in-law died. It was one belly laughing tale after another. Being new in the family, I believed every one of them.

16. When Mother died it was very close to Christmas. She was the essence of Christmas to us. She so loved every aspect of Christmas. She read the Biblical Christmas story to us. She read all the popular Christmas literature to us. Among these perennial readings was 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. We all sang the traditional carols while Mother played the piano.

Christmas was a very muted celebration. By this time we all were grown and married, so siblings had their own traditions, but these traditions included a trip to see our parents. We siblings clustered around Dad, but there was no joy, mainly a dinner.

17. Christmas in Morocco among Americans was quite and muted. In an Islamic country celebrations attributed to Christians were not allowed. We exchanged gifts, had lavish meals, but no external decorations, caroling, or public displays.

Not my best photography, these shots teach a lesson of the ignored elements that combine and intertwine with others to make a successful picture: natural element of wind, a lightweight tripod, and human fallibility. The photo at the top of this post was the best of the series, and it cries for some attention.
The following photo(s) ["Straight Out of the Camera"] were taken with a tripod mounted camera on a windy night. The exposures were extremely slow, but metered by the camera, i.e, not timed exposures. They are not very extremely sharp, the point being a general purpose tripod does not assure crisp exposure if there is a strong wind (there was) and a remote shutter release is not used (it wasn't). These are my husband's outdoor lighting of a few years ago.


Arkansas Patti said...

One of those great minds think alike days. Me too, similar theme. Those may not have been the cheeriest of Christmases but they are the ones we remember and in some ways are the best.
Love the decorations, your hubby is quite creative. A helicopter?? Wow.

Lisa said...

No I can't say that we have had a Christmas that wasn't...My husband's father did die December 21, 2004, money was terribly tight and the job my husband had did not pay enough but my father pulled through and bought the children bikes ~ For them it was a grand Christmas.

Very Nice Post

Anonymous said...

Those were the days. I remember all that and the catalogs in the toilet for paper. Sometimes we never had a Christmas. I never remember a tree or decorations. I do remember the surprise at Christmas once year when my dad gave me an orange. I felt blessed.

lakeviewer said...

This is the time to reminisce, to consider the times when things were tough. wE still remember those moments that stand out as magic.

Small City Scenes said...

I don't remember too much of my youth and Christmas except that I had a happy childhood. I wonder why I don't remember Thanksgiving or Christmas? Were they just another day? I do remember Montgomery Ward and Sears and mail order when my kids were little--that is what I used.
Thanks for sharing your memories. Super lights. We never had outside lights but a higlight at Christmas (I guess I do remember something) was driving around looking at the lights and oohing and awing. MB

Anonymous said...

I hope the squirrels had time to replace their nests in the trees after the 1000 yr ice storm you mentioned.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Well, you may not be happy with those photos, but I think they are fabulous!!! Night photography is extremely difficult!!!! And you have taken some beautiful photos...I also loved your Christmas memories!! What an interesting life you have led!! Morocco! Wow! And all your other memories, too! I loved reading all of it! Love, Janine XO

Silver said...

Your memories have been enriched with all these wonderful experiences.. though somewhat sorry to hear about your dad's workplace. I love the lights and those decorations. It would make any one smile.. especially the helicopter!


Amber Star said...

You and your husband really put on a show with the lights. We pretty much do the same as we have done for years and years. However, we haven't gotten anything up this far. He got the tree out and put together, but no ornaments yet. Outstide hasn't got it together, either.

Christmas was always nice for me. I was an only child, so I pretty much got anything I asked for. I don't remember ever being disappointed on Christmas morning.

This year is going to be a smaller one for our family. We are all getting so old we have nearly everything we need. So, the limit for adults is $20 and the sky is the limit for our one grandson. It hasn't gotten that high at all. It will be a nice Christmas.
My half brother is having a party and instead of buying gifts we are to bring something we no longer want or need to give. You know...that is pretty hard to do. My husband was pretty much stumped. He only buys what he needs. Too bad...I just sent a load to the Goodwill. There was no way I was going to get back into those size 8 or 10 suits least not in a while. It might help a woman get a job if she has some nice clothes. Also, we gave the lady who helps me clean our old sofa and chairs. She was happy to have them, too.